Lance Dunbar finally got his opportunity to shine Tuesday, long after the players considered the best prospects in this year’s NFL draft class had their shot.
Dunbar wasn’t among the 327 players invited to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in late February, leaving North Texas’ annual pro day as his lone shot to make an impression on NFL scouts.
UNT’s all-time leading rusher capitalized in impressive fashion, posting an all-around solid performance and addressing what is considered his biggest weakness — a lack of sprinter’s speed.
Dunbar posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.50 in his first attempt and then broke through to run a 4.47.
The difference of just a few hundredths of a second could make a big difference for the senior, who now will have that all important 4.4 listed next to his name going into the April 26-28 draft.
“It went great,” Dunbar said. “I trained hard for the last two months and it showed today. They expected me to run a 4.6 and I ran 4.47. It was a pretty good time and a big difference from what they had. They saw my real speed with what I ran.”
Nearly a dozen scouts, including former UNT great “Mean” Joe Greene, were on hand to see Dunbar and the rest of the team’s draft-eligible players work out at Apogee Stadium.
Dunbar is considered UNT’s best draft prospect, but several other players who could earn invitations to an NFL training camp also worked out.
UNT has not had a player drafted since linebacker Cody Spencer, who was selected in the 2004 NFL draft, after the Mean Green had won the last of four consecutive Sun Belt Conference titles.
Dunbar, who rushed for 4,224 yards in his college career, improved his chances to end that drought with his performance.
“There is no question Lance helped himself,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said. “He has real quality tape. He is not the biggest back that ever played college football, but has real solid size. It looked like he ran and tested well. He is real pleased. You can tell from watching scouts that they were impressed. He is going to get an opportunity. It’s when, where and how.”
Dunbar measured in at 5-foot-8 3/8 and weighed 197 pounds, slightly under his college playing weight. The former Haltom standout has spent the last two months training to prepare for his pro day.
“This was my big day,” Dunbar said. “I wasn’t invited to the combine. This is my combine. It was a lot of pressure, but I am different. I don’t feel pressure.”
Dunbar could have, especially when lining up to run the 40-yard dash. A running back’s time in the drill can make or break his draft prospects.
“The 40 is always important, especially for running backs,” McCarney said. “What gear do you have when there is some daylight? He has a great gear and that was really important. He ran well in the three-cone drill, L drill, pro agility drill and all those things. He is in great shape. He worked hard after the season. He has been that way since I got here.”
While Dunbar was the main attraction, McCarney was happy to see his seniors, a group of players with whom he worked only a short time after taking over the program, have their opportunity to perform on pro day.
McCarney is heading into his second season at UNT.
“Anyone who has a hope, a dream or a prayer of playing at the next level, you want to give them that opportunity,” McCarney said. “We had a real good turnout and it was very organized. [UNT running backs coach] Mike Grant is my liaison who helped get this organized with [strength coach] Frank Wintrich. The feedback from scouts was good.”
Dunbar is hoping for some good feedback as well, although he will have to wait until the draft to find out if he did enough to become UNT’s first player picked since Spencer.
His initial feeling was that he did help his cause with a performance he attributed to his approach on a key day in his football career.
“I have been doing it for so long,” Dunbar said. “It’s like second nature. I had to come out here and be focused, patient and confident.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
DUNBAR PRO DAY BY THE NUMBERS
Below are the unofficial results Lance Dunbar posted during North Texas pro day at Apogee Stadium. Dunbar measured 5-8 3/8 and 197 pounds.
40-yard dash — 4.47 seconds
Vertical leap — 35 inches
Broad jump — 10 feet, 3 inches
Bench press — 11 repetitions at 225 pounds
Three-cone drill — 6.8 seconds
Pro agility run — 4.07 seconds
Long shuttle — 11.29 seconds